Temple Owls vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
The Records: Penn State (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten); Temple (1-1, 0-0 AAC).
The Coaches: Penn State: James Franklin, third season, 39-28 overall, 15-13 at Penn State; Temple: Matt Rhule, fourth season, 19-21 overall, 19-21 at Temple
The Game: Penn State returns home to the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium after an agonizing loss to arch-rival Pittsburgh last Saturday. The Nittany Lions nearly came back from a three touchdown deficit, only to throw an interception late in the fourth quarter to seal the deal for the Panthers.
This Saturday, James Franklin and company welcome Temple to Happy Valley for a noon EDT kickoff on a day where the university will be honoring former head coach Joe Paterno and the 50th anniversary of the first game he coached for the Nittany Lions. Saturday’s commemoration will include Mike Irwin and John Runnels, both co-captains of the first team Paterno was head coach of in 1966, as honorary captains for the game against the Owls. According to athletic director Sandy Barbour, there will also be highlights of the 1966 team as well as in-game introductions of players Paterno had an impact on throughout his career.
AD Sandy Barbour's full statement. pic.twitter.com/OdVfEaPe6G
— Jarrod Prugar (@jprugar26) September 15, 2016
Last year, Penn State suffered its first loss to Temple since 1941 in an embarrassing 17-point defeat that saw the Nittany Lions’ offensive line give up 10 sacks. In 2015, the Owls went on to win 10 games and appear in the American Athletic Conference championship game where they eventually lost to Houston.
For Penn State and Franklin, this game is as much a must-win as a non-conference game against an AAC team can get. Rumblings surrounded Happy Valley already have Franklin’s coaching seat getting warmer after the Pitt loss, and another loss to a Temple team that’s not quite good as last year’s would only turn the temperature on the hot seat up to the max.
The Owls bring a 1-1 record to the table following a season-opening loss to Army and a 38-0 win over Stony Brook last Saturday. Temple, a team that was stellar against the run last season, was gashed on the ground in the loss to Army, much like how the Nittany Lions were gashed in their loss to Pitt.
Temple returned 14 starters this season, however, their best player from last year, Taylor Matekevich, is currently in the NFL and playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Among the returning starters for the Owls is quarterback Philip Walker, who threw for 143-yards against the Nittany Lions last year. Jahad Thomas, who torched Penn State for 135 yards and two touchdowns in 2015, returned this season but has yet to play due to a thumb injury. Thomas’ availability for Saturday’s game is still up in the air.
A key cog for the Penn State offense this year will be Saquon Barkley. Barkley managed only one rush last season before leaving with an injury in the game against Temple. The sophomore sensation is coming off a five-touchdown performance against Pitt.
Penn State will need to establish a running game early if they want to defeat Temple, and Barkley is the perfect player to help his team do just that. On the other side of the ball, the Nittany Lions’ defense will need to be effective against the run if it wants to help keep its offense in the game.
The game will mark the second-ever Stripe Out of Beaver Stadium, the first coming in a 28-3 victory over Rutgers last season.
Time: 12 p.m. EDT
Location: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Penn.
TV/Radio: BTN/Penn State Radio Network
Prugar’s Prediction: Penn State, 34-14
Image credit: Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports